Filing for Divorce in Arizona
A person filing for divorce in Arizona must have a marriage that is valid in the state where the parties were married and not violate any Arizona laws against a marriage between family members. Either you or your spouse must also have been a resident of Arizona for at least ninety days prior to filing for divorce. If you or your spouse has been a resident in Arizona for less than ninety days, you may file a Petition for Legal Separation and later convert that Petition to a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage after 90 days have passed. You would typically file for divorce in the Superior Court in the county in which you or your spouse resides.
Filing the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in Arizona
If you are eligible to file for divorce in Arizona, you will need to complete several documents that are filed with the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. The Petition for Dissolution of Marriage would contain your allegations in support of your request to get a divorce in Arizona. You would need to allege the marriage is “irretrievably broken with no reasonable prospect of reconciliation”. You do not need to include why your marriage is “irretrievably broken with no reasonable prospect of reconciliation”, such as infidelity, substance abuse, or domestic violence, you only have to allege it is irretrievably broken.
You also need to include allegations that you and your spouse have children born during the marriage if you have children. If the children were born before your marriage, you would have to allege the Father is the biological Father of the children and a Declaratory Judgement of Paternity should be entered. The Court can order genetic testing to establish paternity in a divorce. A presumption exists that a spouse is the Fathe of the children if DNA testing shows a 95% or greater probability of paternity.
You also need to allege whether either party has sole and separate property and that the community property should be “equitably” divided. You will also need to include allegations regarding who should pay child support or spousal maintenance. You do not need to allege how much child support or spousal maintenance should be ordered. Lastly, you may allege whether one spouse should be ordered to pay some or all of the attorney’s fees of the other spouse.
Filing the Preliminary Injunction in an Arizona Divorce Case
You are required to file a Preliminary Injunction in an Arizona divorce case. That Preliminary Injunction automatically applies to the spouse who files the initial Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and only applies to the other spouse when it is served on the other spouse along with the other documents that are filed to start the divorce process in Arizona.
The Preliminary Injunction is executed by the Clerk of the Court and is a court order prohibiting the spouses from doing things the court does not want to happen. Since the Preliminary Injunction is a court order, a spouse may be held in contempt of court and sanctioned for violating the Preliminary Injunction. It is very important you read and understand what conduct is prohibited by the Preliminary Injunction to avoid being held in Contempt of Court and sanctioned. The Preliminary Injunctions prohibits the following conduct:
- You may not hide earnings or community property from your spouse;
- You may not take out a loan on the community property;
- You may not sell the community property or give it away to someone UNLESS you have the written permission of your spouse or written permission from the court. The law allows for situations in which you may need to transfer joint or community property as part of the everyday running of a business, or if the sale of community property is necessary to meet the necessities of life, such as food, shelter, or clothing, or court fees and attorney fees associated with this action. If this applies to you, you should see a lawyer for help;
- Do not harass or bother your spouse or the children;
- Do not physically abuse or threaten your spouse or the children;
- Do not take the minor children, common to your marriage, out of the State of Arizona for many reasons, without a written agreement between you and your spouse or a Court Order, before you take the minor children out of the State;
- Do not remove, or cause to be removed, the other party or the minor children of the parties from any existing insurance coverage, including medical, hospital, dental, automobile and disability insurance. Both parties shall maintain all insurance coverage in full force and effect;
- Both parties are enjoined from transferring, encumbering, concealing, selling, or otherwise disposing of any of the joint, common or community property of the parties, except if related to the usual course of business, the necessities of life, or court fees and reasonable attorney fees associated with an action filed under this article, without the written consent of the parties or the permission of the court;
- Both parties are enjoined from molesting, harassing, disturbing the peace, or committing an assault or battery on, the person of the other party or any natural or adopted child of the parties;
- Both parties are enjoined from removing any natural or adopted minor child(ren) of the parties, then residing in Arizona, from the jurisdiction of the court without the prior written consent of the parties or the permission of the court;
- Both parties are enjoined from removing, or causing to be removed, the other party or the minor children of the parties from any existing insurance coverage, including medical, hospital, dental, automobile and disability insurance. Both parties shall maintain all insurance coverage in full force and effect;
- The Order is effective against the person who filed for divorce, annulment, or legal separation (the Petitioner) when the Petition was filed with the court. It is effective against the other party (the Respondent) when it is served on the other party, or on actual notice of the Order, whichever is sooner. This Order shall remain in effect until further order of the court, or the entry of a Decree of Dissolution, Annulment, or Legal Separation
- You must serve a copy of this Order upon the Respondent, along with a copy of the Petition for Dissolution, Annulment or Legal Separation, the Summons, and other required court papers;
- This is an official Court Order. If you disobey this Order, the court may find you in contempt of court. You may also be arrested and prosecuted for the crime of interfering with judicial proceedings and any other crime you may have committed by disobeying this Order;
- You or your spouse may file a certified copy of this Order with your local law enforcement agency. You may obtain a certified copy from the Clerk of the Court that issues this Order. If any changes are made to this Order and you have filed a certified copy of this Order with your local law enforcement agency, you must notify them of the changes.
Filing the Summons in an Arizona Divorce
You will also need to file a Summons in an Arizona divorce. A Summons is an official court document that must be served on the other spouse along with the other Arizona divorce documents. The Summons notifies the other spouse that a lawsuit for divorce has been filed against them. It also explains when they have to file an Answer to Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and that failure to do so may lead to their default being entered by the Court and the case proceeding without their input. The Summons also tells the other spouse where he or she can obtain copies of all the court documents, that persons with disabilities will receive reasonable accommodations upon request, and that either spouse may file for court conciliation services counseling to try to save the marriage.
Filing the Sensitive Data Sheet in an Arizona Divorce
You are required to provide information about you, your spouse, and your children on the Sensitive Data Sheet in Arizona. The information you must provide includes your names and the names of your children. You must also include the addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, and social security numbers of both spouses. You are required to also provide the dates of birth of the parties and children, as well as the children’s social security numbers. Lastly, you are required to provide the names and addresses of both spouses’ employers.
In Arizona, almost all records filed in your Arizona divorce case are a matter of public record, which means anyone can obtain a copy of documents you file in your Arizona divorce case. The Sensitive Data Sheet is an exception to that general rule. Because the information contained on the Sensitive Data Sheet contains such personal information, the public cannot obtain a copy of it from the Clerk of the Court. It is alright if you do not have all of the information requested in the Sensitive Data Sheet. The Court will not reject your filing for divorce in Arizona if some of the information is left blank; although it is a better practice to simply write “unknown” in any section as opposed to leaving it blank.
Filing the Notice to Creditors in an Arizona Divorce
Some people are confused regarding payments of debts to creditors during a divorce in Arizona. If a debt was incurred during your marriage, regardless whether your name appears on that debt, you and your spouse are both liable for that Debt. The Notice to Creditors is a document that needs to be completed when filing for divorce in Arizona. That Notice to Creditors informs you and your spouse that you are both liable to creditors for all community debts. The Notice to Creditors also informs you and your spouse that you both remain liable to the creditors even if the court orders the other spouse to pay that debt. The reason for this is that a court order for the payment of debt is binding on the spouses but is not binding on the creditor who is not a party in the divorce case. The Notice to Creditors also informs you of your right to obtain your spouse’s credit report by filing a motion with the court and a form you may use to send to all creditors to obtain balance and payment information directly from the creditor even if your name is not on the account.
Filing the Notice of Right to Convert Health Insurance
Arizona law requires that you also file a Notice of Right to Convert Health Insurance at the same time you are filing for divorce in Arizona. The Notice of Right to Convert Health Insurance provides important information on your right to convert your health insurance. If you and your children are covered under your spouse’s health insurance policy you can convert that policy into your own separate policy by law and the insurance company cannot deem you uninsurable. You can also do the same for your children if you are the primary caregiver of the children.
Filing the Parent Information Program Class When Filing for Divorce in Arizona
In Arizona, each parent is required to take a Parent Information Program Class. If you do not have children, you are not required to take the class. The class is designed to enlighten you to the effect a divorce may have on your children and provide positive solutions for dealing with those issues. Failure to take the class may result in the issuance of sanctions against you and may hold up the court issuing a final divorce decree in Arizona. You are required to file a Notice of Parent Information Program Class at the time of filing for divorce in Arizona. The Notice of Parent Information Program class explains the requirements of taking the class and provides a list of locations you may contact to complete the Parent Information Program class.
Chris Hildebrand wrote this article about filing for divorce in Arizona to ensure everyone has access to information about divorce laws in Arizona. Chris is a family law attorney at Hildebrand Law, PC. He has over 24 years of Arizona family law experience and has received multiple awards, including US News and World Report “Top Arizona Divorce Attorneys”, Phoenix Magazine “Top Divorce Law Firms”, and Arizona Foothills Magazine “Best of the Valley” award. He believes the policies and procedures he uses to get his clients through a divorce should all be guided by the principles of honesty, integrity, and actually caring about what his clients are going through.